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TOPIC: December 2010


L

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RE: December 2010
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Mercury is in the constellation Sagittarius on the 10th December, 2010.

Magnitude= 0.4mag
Best seen from 16.1h -16.9h
RA=18h25m21s Dec=-2411.0' (J2000)
Distance=0.804AU
Elongation= 17
Phase k=29%
Diameter=8.4"

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Three meteor showers are predictably good most of the time - the Perseids in mid-August, the Leonids in late November and the Geminids in mid-December. This year's Geminids will occur Monday night and Tuesday morning.
The waxing (growing larger) gibbous (more than half-lit) moon will dim the sky on Monday evening, but it will set a little before 1 a.m. on Tuesday, giving dark skies until near sunrise at 7:17.

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Mark Dec. 21 - a cool, cosmic day - on your calendars. In the very early morning hours, enjoy a total lunar eclipse, then celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice in the evening.
Barring cloudy skies, the Washington area will see the entire event. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, the Earth and the moon align. The moon is always full and it passes through Earth's umbral shadow, or the darkest part of the shadow.

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One of the great resources we enjoy by living in this part of the country is our dark sky. Throughout the winter, those dark skies will become clear and provide us an unparalleled opportunity to view the many wonders of our solar system and the universe.
You don't need a lot of equipment. A dark location, comfortable lounge chair and possibly a pair of binoculars are all you need to enjoy the sky.

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December looks like it will be an interesting month astronomically. First, five of the visible planets are making a showing in the early evening skies during the first weeks of December.
Fleet Mercury will make a brief appearance in the evening sky in the first week and Mars, although fading away, can still be glimpsed just after sunset if you know where to look.

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With this past weeks first blast of wintry weather and thoughts of the upcoming holiday season on our mind, very few will consider stepping outside to view the December night sky, even if the weather co-operates.
That is unfortunate because this months night sky holds a number of celestial events worth viewing. If you are planning on venturing outdoors in the evening to do some observing, dress warmly with multiple layers, making sure you have insulated boots, a warm hat that covers your ears and thick gloves. Nothing takes the edge off a planned observing session quicker than cold ears, hands and feet.

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If you go outside in the morning around sunrise you can see brilliant Venus high in the southeast like the star at the top of nature's Christmas tree. Venus reached its maximum brightness on December 4. The bright "star" above Venus is Saturn.
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December 2 Early morning just before sunrise a very thin crescent Moon will be near the very bright planet Venus.

December 13-14 Geminid Meteor shower. Some meteors may be visible before midnight on the 13th but the peak is predicted for about 4 a.m. MST on the 14th. Naked eye event only. Telescopes and binoculars restrict how much of the sky the observer can see. So bundle up, enjoy some warm drinks and just lay back and look up. Those observing in the country away from light polluted urban skies may see as many as 2 Geminid meteors per minute.

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DATE MERCURY VENUS MARS JUPITER SATURN
Rise Set Rise Set Rise Set Rise Set Rise Set
Dec.7 7:45 AM6:53 PM3:14 AM2:56 PM7:19 AM6:29 PM12:38 PM12:37 AM1:59 AM1:54 PM
Dec.17 6:49 AM6:01 PM3:04 AM2:43 PM7:12 AM6:23 PM12:02 PM12:01 AM1:23 AM1:17 PM
Dec.27 5:18 AM4:37 PM3:01 AM2:35 PM7:06 AM6:18 PM11:26 PM11:23 PM12:46 AM12:40 PM
Dec.31 4:59 AM4:18 PM3:01 AM2:33 PM7:05 AM6:18 PM11:11 PM11:09 PM12:31 AM12:25 PM


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